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Law for bloggers and journalists (UK)


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Presentation as part of the MA Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, UK. Originally delivered Nov 19, 2009. This does not represent legal advice.

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Law for bloggers and journalists (UK)

  1. Paul Bradshaw Senior Lecturer, Online Journalism, Magazines and New Media, School of Media, Birmingham City University, UK ( Blogger, Online Journalism Blog The UK law and online journalism
  2. Disclaimer #1 <ul><ul><li>I am not a lawyer, so the following does not constitute legal advice but an academic overview of law as it affects journalists and bloggers. </li></ul></ul>
  3. Disclaimer #2 <ul><ul><li>It appears to be almost impossible to avoid bullet points when talking about law </li></ul></ul>
  4. Disclaimer #3 <ul><ul><li>The law makes you paranoid, and include pointless disclaimers in everything. Anyone know any lawyer jokes? </li></ul></ul>
  5. Conversation-starter: Audit (legal experiences)
  6. Themes <ul><ul><li>Defamation, contempt, confidence, privacy, copyright </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developments in law </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Regulation </li></ul></ul>
  7. It's defamatory if... <ul><ul><li>Lowers people's opinion of someone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Without justification </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Calculated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To be shunned and avoided without any moral discredit </li></ul></ul>
  8. You are the publisher  (no excuses)  
  9. Examples <ul><ul><li>  ( </li></ul></ul>
  10. Burden of proof <ul><ul><li>Claimant has to show it was injurious (they have UK reputation), and was published </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defendant has to prove it's true or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fair comment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Absolute privilege (parliament, court - e.g. Trafigura) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Qualified privilege  </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. Who can sue? <ul><ul><li>The living - not the dead </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Companies and organisations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Groups of people - but if large, case may be weak (e.g. goalkeepers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some more litigious than others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not councils, quangos etc. (Derbyshire CC case) </li></ul></ul>
  12. Who can be sued? <ul><ul><li>Anyone. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Really, anyone. If you wiped a bead of sweat from the interviewee's brow you could be in for it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Or involved in publication, from interviewees through to journalists, editors, publishers, printers, distributors) </li></ul></ul>
  13. The gag with the £10,000 punchline
  14. When? <ul><ul><li>Within 1 year of publication (Scotland 3 yrs) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But online each access = publication </li></ul></ul>
  15. Fair comment <ul><ul><li>Honest & sincere opinion (not malicious) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Based on true facts (must be indicated or well known) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>On matters of public interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;I think that...&quot; is not enough </li></ul></ul>
  16.   &quot;She can't sing, her bum is too big, and she has the sort of stage presence that blocks lavatories.&quot;
  17. “ The chips were pale, greasy and undercooked ... the cola was flat, warm and watery ... marsala so sweet as to be inedible ”
  18. Qualified Privilege <ul><ul><li>Moral, legal, social duty/interest in publishing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Fair & accurate&quot; reporting of Inquiries and public documents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More at   </li></ul></ul>
  19. Absolute Privilege <ul><ul><li>Parliament, e.g. Minton report &  Trafigura   </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Court </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need for accuracy: story based on prosecution evidence may need defence added later? Links? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>'The trial continues' </li></ul></ul>
  20. Reynold's Privilege <ul><ul><li>Responsible journalism on matters of public interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Took precautions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>included response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(but correct your archives if you were wrong) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The 10 point test </li></ul></ul>
  21. Reynold's Privilege <ul><li>&quot;The defence is of course available to anyone who publishes material of public interest in any medium. The question in each case is whether the defendant behaved fairly and responsibly in gathering and publishing the information.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  22. Consent <ul><li>  </li></ul>
  23. Innocent dissemination <ul><ul><li>Defamation Act 1996 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not liable for UGC content if not responsible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No defence if put on notice: then - </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Remove </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Add statement </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Investigate & verify/remove </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring = responsible? </li></ul></ul>
  24. Innocent dissemination <ul><ul><li>What if streaming defamatory content? Defence under lack of control? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Responsibility to add apology during stream? captions? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But as soon as finished it becomes publication and editable </li></ul></ul>
  25. Developments <ul><ul><li>UN Human Rights Committee report, July 2008 - criticised English libel law: may breach Article 19 of international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (freedom of expression) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>'Rachel's Law' passed in US to protect citizens from being sued in UK </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Index on Censorship/PEN report on libel, Nov 2009 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MOJ consultation on defamation & multiple publication, Dec 2009 (following 2002 recommendation) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wragge & Co pursuing anonymous defamers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Case history: see Appendix </li></ul></ul>
  26. Contempt <ul><ul><li>Prejudicing active legal proceedings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Previous convictions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lifestyle, if relevant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Details of jury deliberations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Payment to or promise of payment to witness during trial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Breaching court orders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Misuse of documents disclosed during proceedings </li></ul></ul>
  27. Contempt - when <ul><ul><li>(someone has been arrested; warrant/summons issued; charged) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Active until acquitted/convicted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Re-active if application for leave to appeal made </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Civil proceedings active when hearing date arranged </li></ul></ul>
  28. Contempt - watch <ul><ul><li>Archives when proceedings active (But Attorney General said unlikely to bring prosecution unless published again) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Print distribution (local) on proceedings elsewhere vs online distribution (global) </li></ul></ul>
  29. Contempt - defences <ul><ul><li>Innocent publication (limited) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fair & accurate contemporary reports of court proceedings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion of public affairs (AG v English re: Down Syndome) </li></ul></ul>
  30. Under 18s <ul><ul><li>Legal proceedings in Youth Court: no name, address, school or details that could identify a minor involved as defendant or witness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In adult courts no automatic restriction but section 39 likely to be made which would do same </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family proceedings likewise </li></ul></ul>
  31. Privacy... <ul><ul><li>Revealing private information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Filming without consent, particularly in private places </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doorstepping </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public spaces more protected, but typically warn people you are filming </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low resolution of streaming protective? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Permission slips (or on film) </li></ul></ul>
  32. Privacy... <ul><ul><li>Human Rights Act 2000 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2004: Princess Caroline, photos in public place but private life </li></ul></ul>
  33. ...and confidence <ul><ul><li>Confidential information imparted under a duty of confidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Or acquired as part of your job (confidentiality agreements) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publishing documents containing confidential information </li></ul></ul>
  34. Defences <ul><ul><li>Consent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Exposing/detecting crime, corruption, antisocial behaviour, injustice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Exposing lies, hypocrisy, misleading claims </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Protecting public health & safety </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Disclosing incompetence, negligence, dereliction of duty </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Exposing dangerous/exploitative behaviour </li></ul></ul></ul>
  35. Injunctions <ul><ul><li>Against publication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need clear evidence of iniquity/false impression </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3rd parties aware of injunction can be guilty of contempt if they publish </li></ul></ul>
  36. Copyright <ul><ul><li>Fair Dealing (EU directive 2003) research for non-commercial purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reviews can quote only if material has been made available to the public </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acknowledgements to copyright owners need to be 'sufficient' </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you have web rights? Global rights? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand Creative Commons </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don't take ownership for granted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Seeking permission isn't just polite - it's good distribution too </li></ul></ul>
  37. T&C and data protection <ul><ul><li>Copyright (needed if you are distributing) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defamation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Permissions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flagging posts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Closing accounts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What you will & will not do with data </li></ul></ul>
  38. Taylor Wessing's recommendations <ul><ul><li>Don't monitor UGC unless necessary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don't encourage potentially infringing content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have effective report this post policy; distinguish between UGC and editorial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>T&Cs should be expressly agreed by users; give discretion to remove content/suspend accounts; prohibit defamatory etc. content; include copyright licence; privacy policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have procedures for complaints & take-down </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Notify claimant and poster when material taken down </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deal with users politely </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have policy for dealing with identity requests </li></ul></ul>
  39. Regulation & misc. <ul><ul><li>Ofcom Broadcasting Code (being revised 2009) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PCC Code </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IWF ( self-regulation ) ( more ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NUJ Code of Conduct </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>EFF ( bloggers' rights ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IndyMedia </li></ul></ul>
  41. Paul Bradshaw Senior Lecturer, Online Journalism, Magazines and New Media, School of Media, Birmingham City University, UK ( Blogger, Online Journalism Blog